Schools ditch books for iPads; Won't solve today's reading 'crisis'

Summary:Kids hate reading. With iPads set to replace textbooks in many U.S. schools, will reading finally become a hobby for today's kids? I doubt it.

Though iPads are becoming increasingly popular productivity engines for college students, many U.S. schools will be moving away from the traditional textbooks in favour of Apple's tablet.

Apple told AP that they know of at least 600 school districts that have launched "one to one" programs, in which at least one classroom of school students are receiving iPads to use for school work.

But there is one thing we know about kids nowadays -- they hate reading, and when they do read, they don't enjoy it.

Can iPads in schools revolutionise reading? I wouldn't bet any money on it.

(Image via Flickr)

Apple will revel in the glory of serving a vast number of school students with the latest tablet technology, up-to-date electronic textbooks and interactive content. But as these kids go on to seeming success, there are still -- let us not forget -- more school students out there without the aid of an iPad, than those with.

I am not the greatest fan of tablets for personal productivity. I personally will not gain from having one, nor will I spend my money on a device for which a netbook or an ordinary laptop can achieve with greater ease.

But in education, especially for the younger generation, an enticing and interactive platform is all but necessary to overcome the 'boredom' of modern education. Interactive whiteboards barely scratches the surface of interaction nowadays.

It's an interesting observation to rid the shelves of textbooks, only to replace them in e-reader format, to enable the downloading and updating of text as and when they become available. It saves on paper, physical storage space, and the cost-benefit of each iPad and running costs proportional to buying a chunk of textbooks in the first place.

The Kindle, though great in theory and widely accepted as the 'standard' for all other e-readers, barely scratches the surface of the wider problem.

But you say, "Kindle's are for books, and iPads can run interactive and engaging content". Yes, they do, when the content is actually available, and part of a core curriculum of study that the school supports.

But though the iPad guarantees a certain level of glitz and excitement to the end-user student, it does not guarantee that reading will be an automatic by-product of the tablets themselves.

I do not doubt for a minute that technology, especially tablets and slates, cannot be a useful tool in the classroom. But reading is still a 'boring' thing to do for kids today -- even through to recent graduates like me.

The prospect of having to sit down with a journal article, thirty-odd pages in length, used to send shivers down my spine. I'm still not a fan of reading, but knowing that the end result will be of value to me is enough of an incentive for me to plough my way through it.

While tablets are a valuable asset in the classroom, and a cost-effective replacement to textbooks, the iPad or any other tablet for that matter does not guarantee that students will want to read. The interactive content alone will be stimulating enough to maintain an attention span for longer than five minutes, but the core value of reading is still something educators and parents alike need to tackle.

Related content:

Topics: Hardware, iPad, Mobility

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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